Barely three months after taking over as chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray saw an unprecedented global pandemic wreak havoc on the health of his state's economy and people.
The challenges of coming to power had been many. Scepters had been sharpening their pens to write untimely obituaries to the three party government. It's been eight months since 28 November 2019, and now, critics and fans alike are unanimous in their verdict — neither politics nor pandemic can obscure the fact that Thackeray's leadership has been a sterling example of good governance.
It’s a good time as any to have a look at his government’s achievements as the CM turns 60 on Monday.
The ‘talk less, work more principled’ CM took on a 'people first' stance from the word go. Within the first three months, nearly 26 lakh farmers benefited to the tune of Rs 16,690 crore in loan waivers, and his pet project, the Shiv Bhojan Thali Yojana made sure 870 centres came up across the state to serve nearly 1,20,000 meals per day at just Rs 10 a plate.
A five day week was put in place for state government employees in accord to global standards, infrastructure works were fast-tracked and work to ensure that Mumbai becomes slum free was started in earnest with the CM himself closely monitoring the progress of the Dharavi Redevelopment Mega Project.
A Mission room was set up to address adivasis' issues, mobile animal hospitals in the state were being setup and e-learning initiatives in schools were rolled out. IIT Chennai was roped in to help the state harness its tidal energy. The state’s iconic landmark, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s capital, fort Raigad was sanctioned Rs 20 crore towards conservation efforts in CM’s very first Cabinet meeting.
Mumbai, the nerve centre of the country, got its due share of attention in the first 100 days of the Thackeray government coming to power. Rs 200 crore were set aside for enhancing the heritage value of the Mumbai University Fort precincts, Mumbai's iconic dabbawalas would get their own housing and a 'Mumbai 24x7' initiative to promote tourism and employment opportunities in the metropolis was launched.
The city is set to get its own multi-level aquarium set to global standards. The Maha Jobs Portal, launched earlier this year is going to go a long way in ensuring that local Maharashtra youth would get guaranteed jobs for skilled, semi-skilled as well as unskilled work.
Despite an outlook of economic recession in the country, CM Thackeray forged ahead with constructive steps for the rural and agricultural sectors. State of the art medical facilities, employment for youth and development of industry in the state were the highlights of the CM's first Budget.
Sustainable development, which CM Thackeray had said would be his credo, continued to be the underlying theme with several environmental conservation works outlined for the months ahead.
Coal Mines were demarked, tiger sanctuaries protected and a highway changed its alignment to save a 400-year-old tree.
The pandemic put a spanner in the planned works of the new government by March 2020 but Thackeray proved his mettle by stepping up to the challenge. The Dharavi Model implemented in Asia's largest slum, came in for praise from the WHO Director General for being one of the finest instances of how the spread of the pandemic could be contained in congested areas.
Maharashtra became the first state in the country to implement plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, and pro-active measures like commissioning of 80 per cent of beds in private hospitals for corona care were implemented.
In quick decisive steps, the Thackeray government started screening at the state's entry points and testing suspected cases on a war footing. As many as 282 dedicated Covid hospitals, 434 dedicated Covid health centres and 1,631 Covid centres were set up rapidly.
Despite the pandemic, the Maharashtra government last month signed MoUs bringing in Foreign Investment worth Rs 16,000 crore with companies spanning various industries under its "Magnetic Maharashtra 2.0" initiative. The companies are from diverse sectors like automobile, logistics, banking, engineering and mobile production.
A series of measures taken by the chief minister who regularly addresses citizens on mass media to alleviate their fears and reassure them about the steps being taken to tackle the pandemic, have helped contain the virus in the state. The past few months stretched the challenges faced by a young government but with a consistent focus on people's welfare close to his heart, the CM has emerged a true effective leader of the masses.
With or without Covid, the Thackeray government will go down in history as the one that faced challenges in the eye and came up triumphant.